A small plastic seal, a Harp Seal to be precise, sat on my office computer- my ‘animal of the week.’ I have always been very organized. A legion of plastic creatures, turn-by-turn in accordance to a planned calendar, are placed on my keyboard to add some visual interest to an otherwise dull desk.
I glanced at my long to-do list spread across three sticky notes of different colours. The screen’s eighty-percent brightness made my eyes water. In a sleepy second, the plastic Harp Seal perched on the laptop blinked.
The seal spoke.
‘What day is it?’ it asked.
‘Look behind you, there’s a calendar on my screen. Don’t you look at it all day?’ I was tired.
‘No, I observe you. And the giggly intern next to you. Why does she giggle so much?’
‘Get to the point.’
I had only just ticked the last task on the first sticky note and it was already six p.m. The seal turned around to glance at my screen. The office tea-boy came over and handed me the elixir, eyeing me curiously. Like always, I glared dangerously to hasten his exit.
‘So it’s a Thursday. Two more days left for me to sit here. Who’s next?’
‘A penguin. Emperor, to be precise,’ I said.
‘I see. Another polar chap…’
‘Yes.’ I took a sip. The seal appeared to think hard.
‘It’s all very sad,’ it sighed. ‘Really. Truly. Sad.’
‘The heat from the laptop bugs me. I am used to much colder temperatures. Much colder,’ it said.
‘But you are made of plastic!’
‘I meant my species is used to much more cold. Can’t I speak on behalf of the other seals? I am conditioned to think and act like one, you see.’
I knew where this was headed. Too tired to argue, I gulped down some more tea. The giggly intern giggled for a reason unknown to me and perhaps to her. The seal rolled its painted eyes.
‘My suggestion is, you could get a cooling pad for your laptop. If not, next week, the penguin will wish it could fly. Oh, and if you can, Amiah, do something about the melting Arctic.’
Not again. Only last week, the Stegosaurus had gone on about its unfair extinction. I felt drained like my teacup.
‘When the seas rise, you may have to leave this city,’ the seal said. It was my turn for eye-rolling. ‘The Arctic’s vanishing. Soon there will be no North Pole.’
‘… because there’ll be no ice to hold it in place?’
The seal missed it by latitudes. ‘I’m sure the penguin will complain about this too.’
‘Why would it complain about the Arctic?’
‘I meant the overall problem! Its home, the Antarctic- what is happening there is similar to…’
The seal harped on the theme for a while. I caught words like ‘ozone,’ ‘carbon,’ and I think it even quoted Lovelock at some point. The plastic fellow was successfully inducing guilt. Its predicament, unlike the Stegosaurus’s, was after all partly my fault.
A superior noticed me staring at the screen with the screensaver on.
‘Alright, I’ll do something,’ I said.
‘Seal it, then.’
Aware of the lurking superior some tables away, I quickly touched my pinkie finger to the seal’s flipper. It smiled, then froze for the day, in spite of the heat it had complained about.
When the weekend came, I placed the Harp Seal inside the freezer at home instead of the ‘H’ drawer.
There it remained for a week, after which came the Emperor Penguin’s turn.
That was all I could have done, anyway.
© vaidehi patil